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Monday, February 29, 2016

A society of stubble

I mustache you a question: how do you really feel about facial hair? Whether it’s a bushy hipster beard or a pencil thin mustache, no one can deny that the trends of men with something on their face is as ever changing as the razor blades that grace their bathrooms.
My father had a Burt Reynolds style mustache for all of my youth, until he went for the full beard that he still wears today. I have never, in my entire life, seen even a glimpse of my dad’s upper lip.
My husband is not such a stagnant man when it comes to decorating his face. There seems to be a fluctuation of follicles throughout the year as he decides to grow a beard during hunting season, keep it long for warmth in winter, and then shave it off in parts come spring. Last week’s goatee was yesterday’s fu Manchu, and is today’s standard ‘stache, with minimal coverage just below his nose.
Such options, men have these days.
Not only options, but long gone is the time when a clean shaven face was thought of as being groomed. Suddenly, men are spending more time and products on their faces than I do on my own hair. There are entire social media sites dedicated to the mustaches of certain celebrities, none of which are my high school English teacher, which is disappointing because to this day, that man epitomizes the true meaning of the mustache.
The short of it is, unless bound by a religious practice, men have nearly as many options on their face as women do on their heads. The popularity of the mustache or beard seems to be as booming as bacon and zombies, and no matter your personal opinion, it’s hip to be hairy.
And if you’re a man looking to sprout some fuzz, there is good news coming in our weather. Apparently, mustache hair grows faster than any other body hair and it grows faster in spring and summer than in winter or fall. And if you’re going to just shave, settle in because statistics show that if a man starts shaving at age 14, by the time he is 75 years old he will have spent 5 months sculpting that fuzz. That bit of time is only slightly more than the time he spends touching it, though. The average man with a mustache touches it 760 times per day, so says the Internet. (That’s roughly 45 times per hour if a man sleeps 7 hours, which makes me want to silently observe and count next chance I get.)
I suppose every gender needs to embrace his or her own right to make a statement, so men, may your faces become the canvas of your personality. Let it grow, let it grow.

Originally written/published 4.26.15. 

The ump of backyard mowing

Nothing quite says summer like that perfect combination of sunshine and lawn mowing. The only thing better is when that warm afternoon arrives on a freakishly warm spring day when the grass is lush and I hear those magical words, “Go ahead, honey, you can mow the lawn.”
I love to mow. The headphones snug around my head, my favorite tunes blasting in my ears, and the sound of the mower drowning out the rest of the world.  Besides the hum of the blade spinning and the occasional vocal solo, it’s a perfectly peaceful world behind the handle of that mower, and I enjoy every stripe as I pace up and down the yard.
Unless it’s a freakishly warm day in spring.
As much as I love nature and backyard critters, I have a strict leg rule that I adhere to, no matter what.  In the past week I have rescued baby bunnies and turtles as they partake in their vernal activities, but I draw the line at snakes. Two legs, good.  Four legs, good.  Six or even eight legs, good.  No legs? No way.
I don’t particularly enjoy snakes, especially when I’m not expecting them.  Even less so when I’m jamming away behind the mower and one decides to play long-grass-chicken and test my reflexes by slithering right in the path of the spinning blade.
In the words of my neighbor who had just rounded the corner of his garage, I suddenly went into spasms and there was loud shrieking where the sound of the lawnmower once was. In my defense, it was a less than calm display of attempting to save the life of the legless creature who decided to dart into the path of certain death.  Not wanting to have to clean snake guts out of the inner workings of the blade, it was truthfully with great stealth, precision, and slight hysterics that I managed to save the life of that poor garter snake.
In fact, within the time span of 20 minutes, I had saved the lives of two Kamikaze snakes who thought they were really funny.  (As if they couldn’t see my perfectly parallel stripes and know what was coming.) Twice, the zen of my grass cutting afternoon was interrupted by these tormenting reptiles who I’m sure were laughing at me as they wiggled away into the safety of the brush while I paced around and patted my chest and took deep breaths.
“Do you want me to finish mowing?” my husband asked.
“No, I can do it,” I replied, mustering the strength to combat the 18-inch long beasts while I hid behind a machine strong enough to tear each scale from scale.

“But that was two snakes in just a short bit of time. You know what they say, ‘three snakes and I’m out.  And never mowing again.’”

Originally written/published 4.19.15.

Spring Cleaning

Historically speaking, spring cleaning was a necessity. Before the convenience of the furnace and the thermostat, winter months were spent with the houses closed up and parents constantly yelling at their children to keep the doors closed tight. The wood burning stove, oil lamps, and candles were all they had to keep them from being peoplesicles and so even the neatest of neatnicks had to turn their backs on the soot and wax buildup on every surface of the house.
When the sun finally broke out and the weather was warm enough to warrant opening the windows and doors, they did just that. Furniture was dragged outside and scrubbed down, removing the layers of winter’s wrath that had built up on every surface.
Nowadays we don’t quite have that same problem to deal with because our lives have evolved into cleaner heating and lighting systems.  Also, our furniture has gotten considerably larger and heavier and I think that if I pulled my couch and kitchen table into the front yard to hose down, my neighbors might think I had gone completely lost it.
But even so, I think we are wired to clean in the spring.
I hate cleaning. I think it comes from the fact that my grandmother loves to clean, even at the spry age of 92.  “Grandma can’t talk now, Karrie, she’s scrubbing the floor.”  My mom got some of those genes. “I’m soooo busy.  I have to straighten up the closet.  The shirts aren’t even stacked in piles.” (I recently sent my mother a photo of my closet, clothes strewn on the floor, nothing folded, and four thousand items hung on one hook. I’m pretty sure I took years off her life.) The cleaning gene was wore out by the time it got to me.
As much as I dislike spending time doing these chores, something hits me in the spring.  Call it tradition, call it instinct, call it desperation, even I suddenly burst into cleaning mode as soon as it gets legitimately warm enough to open windows and air out the winter gasses.  I’m ready for a fresh start, a new season of sunshine, and fresh air.
And so, like a bird who flies north when the sunlight gets longer, I start washing bedding and cleaning doors and walls and doing things I didn’t even think about doing but somehow cannot stop myself.
Statistics on some random website show that Americans spend around $650 on cleaning products every year.  I would bet that the majority of those dollars are spent in April here in Ohio, when we all open windows and breathe in the damp and have just enough sunlight to illuminate how dirty our houses are.
Then we all go to the store and stock up on what we need.
And we don’t wear a coat.
And we smile.

Because we can’t help it.

Originally written/published 4.12.15

Changing the way you parent

“Karrie, this gift will completely change the way you parent,” my friend told me. “Trust me,” she said. “Now give me back your Christmas present.”
As it was, she gifted me a very sparkly bracelet that she demanded I return to her the second I opened it. Not being a sparkly girl, I assured her I loved it and would wear it, but she was right. It clashed with my hiking boots and the dirt on my jeans. She was right, but I didn’t give it back until she absolutely insisted because my new and amazing replacement gift was being shipped.
“I can’t wait to give it to you!” she said. “It will change your whole life.”
I had no idea what she would be giving me, but finally one day I got the call that it was in and I needed to pick it up immediately…and bring the bracelet.
Standing in her kitchen, the excitement was so high that she didn’t even bother to wrap it. Instead, she handed me a large box and toothy grin from ear to ear.
I must have looked confused, and admittedly I was.
“It’s a megaphone! It’s amazing! It will ch---“
“Change my life, yes I heard,” I finished, my voice probably trailing off through my forced smile, thinking I might get more use out of that sparkly bracelet.
“You don’t understand,” she said, “let me demonstrate.” She picked up her own megaphone (she got one for herself, too) and, “kids! Brush your teeth. Go to bed.”
Her timbre was soft. Her voice was calm. Her requests were easily heard in every room of her house.
I thanked her, grabbed my odd and belated Christmas present, left the bracelet and went home. Once there, I installed four thousand gigantic batteries, tried it out, and set it on my kitchen counter.
For days it sat, untouched, unless you count a child picking it up now and then to irritate me, a sibling, or the poor dog. It got shifted from counter to counter and then one day I was making dinner and didn’t have time to go looking for the kids, so in a moment of brilliancy, I picked up the megaphone.
“Dear children, please get your hineys to the kitchen immediately. Bring homework and clean fingers.”
Normally I would have been screaming these words in multiple directions, often stomping on the floor to get the attention of those who may be hiding in the basement. I might have to yell up the stairs or even out the back door. But now, with the aid of my trusty new megaphone, it only took one time and I said it in a peaceful and I-mean-business-but-I’m-not-so-furious-that-veins-are-popping-out-of-my-head tone.
They came running. I was sold.

Megaphone? Mega-awesome. Mega-useful. Mega-perfect Christmas present from a mega-fantastic (and brilliant) friend.

Originally written/published 4.5.15

Monday, February 8, 2016

A missing "k" makes all the difference

This is really less of an personal opinion column and more of a public announcement because I don’t want the local world as I know it to think that I am encouraging poor use of outdoor primitive restroom facilities.
I am thrilled to announce that I was recently awarded the Healthy Habits Champion of Orrville for the year, an honor that means important people in the community noticed that I never sit down, like to sweat, and inspire others to do the same.  Truthfully, I had no idea what an award this was, and even weeks later am still flattered and humbled and afraid to eat a cheeseburger in public.
Along with all of that, I’m still smiling at what has to be my favorite typo of all time.  I’m not sure who forgot the letter, but I thank that person whole-heartedly for this wonderful story that I will tell for years.
A full-page write-up in the evening’s program, the top included a photo and the bottom of the page had a bold print of what I like to call my Soapy Manifesto, and is printed on each of the labels for my small soap company, Dirt Don’t Hurt.  The purpose of the words is to motivate people to be a part of nature, to get dirty, and then to clean up with the soap. It contains such phrases as “climb a tree” and “walk in a creek” and the important one, “peek under a rock.”
Only they overlooked the letter k in that last one.
We didn’t find the mistake until my daughter read the program at home and said, “Mom, does your soap label really tell people to pee under a rock?”
Thinking back, there I was, on stage in front of over 350 prestigious community members.  I stood there while a respected doctor told them all about my life and my accomplishments.  I smiled and rocked back and forth in a dress I rarely have the chance to wear.  And now, all I can think about is how many of those prominent people were thinking of me out in the woods, rolling over a big hunk of sandstone because I had too much coffee to drink.
And therefore, I wanted to take this prime space of newspaper to clarify to all that are willing to read.  I promise you all that peeking under a rock (and not peeing under a rock) is a much better choice.  In fact, I try to avoid rocks all together when the urge strikes on one of my outdoor adventures, and any girl worth her hiking boots will attest to that.
My favorite part of the whole ordeal is that I know the woman who did the design for the program.  “Didn’t you notice that there was a missing K?!?” I asked.
“Not really.  I just thought you were that tough of a woman.”

Originally written/published 3/29/15

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